Tanya Lloyd Kyi
Genre: Mystery, Realistic Fiction, Hi-Lo
No one saw Ted Granville get attacked. That’s what Jen wants to believe with all of her heart: it was just a mistake or an accident. He had a heart attack, fell, hit his head, anything other than the thought that someone she knows was involved.
Because she was there that night, at the party with all of her friends, most of her classmates, and Ted Granville.
But now the cops are closing in. They’re asking questions, and they want to find the killer. They believe that the students at the party have answers they’re not sharing. But with threats being made by the possible killer, other students showing up with black eyes and taped ribs, does Jen dare to investigate? And, when she learns the truth, does she risk her life to share it?
Hmm, okay. Let’s see…
All right, I’ll start here. At one point Jen mentions that Shakespearean endings are “all blood and last-minute honor” (97). I just had to put the book down and laugh because everything fell into place. I knew exactly how the story was going to end, but I also knew exactly why Kyi had set it up that way. She was going for a Shakespearean ending. She did a good job of it, too. The last thirty pages or so are really compelling reading. The pace seems to pick up out of nowhere, and it’s written in such a way that a seriously confusing action sequence played out like a movie on the page.
The rest of the book, however, was like an extra-tall lift hill to the top of the roller coaster.
As a writer (and roller-coaster enthusiast), I know that such a thing is necessary, particularly in a mystery. All that energy needs time to build up, and the only way to do that is to keep cranking, adding foot after tiny foot of upwards track. Otherwise, you won’t have any momentum to follow through with the twists, turns, and loops once you’re let go.
The problem with this book is that it took so long to get to the top. How many times and how many ways does the reader need to hear that Jen is afraid to go to the police? That her father is disappointed in her for not speaking up? That Jerome is attractive and Ross is a scumbag and Nate is probably on steroids? Because unless the reader isn’t paying attention literally at all, they’re going to have gotten that the first time.
Maybe that’s what it is. Truth was written in 2003, which is older than the sixth and seventh graders at my middle school this year. I don’t know how long Orca, the publisher, has been doing its thing, but maybe they didn’t expect a certain level of savvy and sophistication from their stories back when they first began publishing. Alternately, maybe they were hoping the mystery would be strong enough to carry readers through. But when the reader is pretty much slapped in the face with the identity of the killer less than a tenth of the way in, it’s going to take a lot of skill to keep the reader’s attention.
What actually ends up happening is that the author makes the mystery less about who killed Ted Granville and more about Jen’s conflicting emotions about whether or not she should tell the police what she knows. The obvious (at least to an adult) answer is, “Duh. Of course you should.” What I found interesting is that, while Kyi agrees with me, she brings up how the situation is more complicated than that. Telling could get many people she knows in trouble. An anonymous tip line is all well and good, but people know she’s been told to investigate for the school news program. If the police track down the killer but don’t arrest him right away, he could go after her friends. It actually happens several times during the book itself, where other kids are beaten for being close to the truth. I feel like students could relate to that kind of conflict. They want to do the “right thing” because they know they should, but they’re afraid of the “snitches get stitches” mentality that is prevalent these days.
But oh, the ride of the last thirty pages…
Truth is a short book that feels a lot longer and broader in scope than its page count might indicate. It might not be the most skillfully-executed hi-lo available, but it should still draw in readers.
- Students looking for a thrilling mystery
- People needing a lower-level book with the same ideas of right vs. wrong
- People who like a book that is a slow burn
- Alcohol Use: kids at party are drinking underage
- Bullying: characters bully one another into keeping quiet
- Death: character’s death is major plot point
- Drug Use: characters illegally taking steroids to “bulk up”
- Lying: characters lie to each other and the police
- Murder: character is murdered
- Other Illegal Activity: characters are threatened and assaulted
- Sex: sexual jokes and references are made
- Swearing: characters swear mildly throughout
- Violence: descriptions of characters attacking one another
- Weapon Use: characters threaten each other with weapons
- Alcohol Abuse
- Drug Abuse
- Right vs. Wrong
- Romantic Love
|Exploration of Conflict||2|
|Consideration of Themes||2|
|Suspension of Disbelief||2|
|Imagery and Description||2|
|Rhythm and Pace of Book||2|
|Mechanics (spelling, grammar, punctuation)||1|